November 11, 2018

The Radical Hope of a Generous Heart

Catholics and all Christians are called to live a radical hope - a hope rooted in the resurrection of Jesus from the Dead.  Since we believe that He has conquered sin and death, neither sin nor death can take away our hope.  Our conviction that good has triumphed over evil in the world spills over into our own lives. It gives us the freedom to be completely generous with the Lord because it knows that no matter how much is given, God has already given so much more. Those who ground themselves in the Word of the Father do not fear death or anything, for nothing can stand between them and the love of God.

Radical hope engages in battle. A hope that fights against fear is needed in our families and in the broader community. To be permissive seems like kindness but it is stingy. It lacks confidence in God who is at work in my neighbor. Failures to protect the most vulnerable steal away the hope of others nearly as much as it robs hope from one's own soul. The greed of such despair is only fully revealed under the shadow of the Cross, and it is in this same shadow that radical hope triumphs.

Before the Cross, we find the ground of God's hope for man and man's hope for God. Here, a mysterious Presence enfolds the misery of humanity in mercy. The Father's gaze searches sin and death and finds the loving obedience of His Son. In this mutual gaze, the Holy Spirit convinces us of sin and gives the courage to make a new beginning. Here, cowardice loses its power. The bravery to give all that one has is born. Let the tears that fall from our eyes lift us into prayer. By prayer, let us allow God to move us into action. From the smallest and most informal conversation to a public event where one's reputation is on the line, God is ready to act in and through us - ready to plant hope firmly in His Merciful Love.

November 8, 2018

Hidden Immensity and Secret Harmonies

A hidden Immensity of meaning, a fullness that has only begun to disclose itself, awaits us in the humble act of prayer. This is the Word of the Father. He makes known the truth in ways hidden behind what seems to be routine. This Great Stillness is disguised in the demanding circumstances of the moment. This Beatitude is the hidden solitude one can find even on a busy street. He speaks in the language of silences, most still to be heard, that haunts the noise of the work-a-day world. This Divine Glance is disguised in the lonely stare of a heart that thinks itself forsaken.

Nothing deserves our attention in the way that Divine presence ought to command ours. Fires may rage dangerously close. Floods might threaten. Gratuitous sudden violence leave its trail of broken lives and hearts. Family anxieties and difficult relationships might pile up in overwhelming ways. Menacing political and cultural forces might intimidate. Before our very eyes, the innocent, the marginalized and the weak may be grievously neglected, or harshly crushed, or used. All of this might rightfully require our attention for a time, and often demand decisive action. With time, all of this passes, but God does not change and the love He yearns for us to know is never offered the same way twice. 

For the Holy Trinity envelops and penetrates this whole brief moment of life we share together. So fragile and magnificent, such sorrow and joy all at once, this passing moment rushes to the Heart of the Lord - if we will let it take us there. This very moment was loved into existence - the idea of it so beautiful to God that He willed it should exist. We are bogged down in sluggishness and still something in it echoes and draws us. 

Let the secret harmonies of God draw us out of ourselves.  In ways that defy our ability to guess, the Three Divine Persons have already disclosed their Unity to us, and in this Unity, their Three-ness rings out more beautifully than any earthly music. The great symphony of this uncreated Love resounds at this very moment - and only prayer opens the ears of the heart to hear it.

November 7, 2018

In Praise of the Holy Trinity

In a retreat reflection that she wrote for her sister Marguerite, a mom with small children, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity sets the life of heaven as the ideal to seek. Yet, she does not propose heaven as simply a remote future possibility. Through a complete surrender of our whole existence to God, the life of heaven is a way of life that begins now. This means that the glory that awaits us is the same glory already present to us now. We are meant to be the praise of this glory - creatures who make known the inexhaustible riches of God:

In Heaven, each soul is a praise of glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is because each soul is fixed in pure love. Each one "no longer lives its own life but the life of God" (St. John of the Cross).  The soul "knows itself", says Saint Paul, "as it is known by God." Its will the will of God. Its love the very love of God.  

In reality, the Spirit of love and power transforms the soul.  Given in order to supply what is lacking, as Saint Paul explains, the Holy Spirit accomplishes this glorious transformation in it (see Romans 8:26).  Saint John of the Cross affirms that for the soul that has surrendered to God, little is left to; by the power of the Holy Spirit, it attains the degree of which we are speaking here below! This is what I call a perfect praise of glory!

Heaven in Faith, 42.

November 6, 2018

The Saints' True Knowledge according to Saint Elizabeth

It is good to look into the soul of the saints and to follow them by faith right up to Heaven. They are completely luminous with the light of God. There, they contemplate Him face to face for all eternity. 

The Heaven of the saints is our homeland.  It is “the Father’s House” where we are awaited, where we are loved, where one day we too will be able to soar and rest in the bosom of Infinite love.  When we turn our attention to the sacred world that even in our exile envelops us, the world into which we can move ourselves – oh, how things here below vanish: all of it is for naught. It is all less than nothing. The saints for their part understood true knowledge so well. This knowledge makes us forsake all else, especially ourselves, so that we can soar to God and live only for Him! 

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, selected from L 184 – On November, 24, 1903, written to Mrs. Angles, the sister-in-law of Father Angles, a close family friend. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Angles became a Visitation Nun in the final years of her life.

November 5, 2018

The Eucharistic Heart of God According to Saint Elizabeth

Saint Elizabeth writes to her brother-in-law, a seminarian:

Nothing tells us more about the love in God’s Heart than the Eucharist. This union, this consummation of Him in us and we in Him, is this not heaven on earth? This is Heaven in faith while awaiting the vision face-to-face for which we yearn. When His glory appears, we will be satisfied for we will see Him in His light. Does not the very thought of such a meeting refresh you, this conversation with Someone so particularly beloved to you? All else disappears. It is as if you already penetrate the very Mystery of God.

May I be wholly ready to respond, wholly vigilant in faith, so that the Master can take me wherever He wishes. I wish to stay close to Him and to learn everything from Him. He knows the whole mystery, “The language of the Word is the gift's infusion.” Is this not so very true? He speaks to our soul in silence. 

I find this precious silence a blessing.  We have the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the oratory: what divine hours are spent in this little corner of Heaven. Here, we possess the vision in substance under the humble Host. Yes, one and the same, He who the blessed contemplate in light and He who we adore in faith. 

Selected text from Letter 165, to Andre Chevignard, June 14, 1903

November 4, 2018

The Measureless Measure

In 1904, in the days leading up to the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, Father Fages preached a retreat to Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelites of Dijon. In that retreat, the Dominican drew on St. Augustine to describe Mary as a model of contemplative souls. She magnified the Lord because of the love that lived in her heart, "Love, unmindful of its own dignity, thirsts to exalt and to increase the beloved: its only measure is to be without measure."

Saint Elizabeth sees this kind of love as the standard, rallying point and gravitational center for her life and the lives of her friends. Heaven loves without measure and this force of love is at work in our souls - if only we will make space for God.  She identifies love's measureless measure with the "riches of God's glory." The gravitational pull of this glory is drawing us to live "no longer our own life, but the life of Christ in us."  With this in mind, she prays to God "to fill you with this measure without measure." (see Letter 214). 

November 3, 2018

The Flowing Presence of the Holy Trinity

In a poem, John of the Cross describes the life of the Trinity as a river. He describes how this Personal Presence given to us in the Eucharist flows through the heavens and the earth. He even claims that this brimming River of Life surges through hell. Is God actually present where He is definitively and eternally rejected? If He can be present there, triumphant and just in the face of malice, how much more He reveals when the rejection is only indefinite and still confined by time.

As St John was tormented by his persecutors, he understood hell fire, and yet, he also knew that those fires could not constrain the Divine Presence. Not only through the very heart of evil, but through the evil that we cling to in our own hearts, this Living Water floods forth.  How can evil withstand this surge? How long will we resist Mercy's force?

Those who are moved to confess their sins and to do penance have felt this Almighty River. Ready to burst dams of bitterness and set limits on the power of sin and death for the price of a prayer, the currents of Divine Mercy cannot be contained or predicted. As this overflowing Flood surges through the sinful levies that we raise, tender tears begin to flow and snobs comforted by forgiveness realize a new beginning.

To help us see what the Divine Persons begins and causes to progress, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity describes not a river but an Ocean. What mysterious Water holds us afloat on these unfathomable seas! Great tides pull us beyond what is comfortable and convenient. Deep currents can suddenly take us where no one can see. Yet, it is not to nothingness but to fullness of life the Divine Persons draw us.  Christ, the Radiant Star, captivates us and at the same time helps us navigate these Waters in which we lose ourselves. As we surrender, God surrenders - and the Holy Spirit renews this saving Mystery and the Father overshadows with His creative love anew.

Saint Elizabeth's Promise

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, before her death, promised to help her friends from heaven. She claimed that it would increase her joy to do so.  What she most wanted for her friends is that they should thrive, and that they should render-vous with her again in our heavenly homeland. Yet this homeland was not something that she envisioned in the distant future or remote from the heart. Instead, our true home, the place where we belong, for Saint Elizabeth, is the "Bosom of the Trinity" which is ours by a mutual indwelling - God in us, and we in God.  For her, prayer is meant to lead us out of ourselves and into a great silence that is vulnerable to the Presence of God, and such contemplative prayer knows communion with "infinite beatitude," not only in the glory that awaits us after this life, but right now, by faith. That is why she is praying for us even now. She has a special mission to lead us out of self-occupation and to open us up to the interior grace of contemplative wonder, its adoration, its mystery, its loving surrender.